The Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday announced an upgrade to the food and beverage concessions at Miller Park that will debut by Opening Day 2017.
The team announced a nearly $20 million project that will “reimagine” the food and beverage experience by adding Wisconsin craft brews as well as local restaurant offerings throughout the stadium.
"A key element of the project is going local," said Rick Schlesinger, Brewers chief operating officer, who said the company is expanding its partnership with Hospitality Democracy, the local restaurant group co-owned by Marcus Investments.
What’s envisioned is an expanded presence for some food offerings of the Hospitality Democracy eateries that have already been at Miller Park, such as AJ Bombers Hamburgers, Smoke Shack Barbeque and Holey Moley Doughnuts.
Jacque Lefeber, a manager of special events, adjusts
Jacque Lefeber, a manager of special events, adjusts the renderings before the news conference. (Photo: Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
New additions to the dining options will include Zaffiro’s Pizza, a new taco brand yet to be developed by Hospitality Democracy, as well as macaroni and cheese, frozen custard, cheese curds and a new line of Klement’s Sausages that will only be available at Miller Park.
No taxpayer money from the stadium district sales tax is planned to fund the upgrade, Schlesinger said. The Brewers are the primary funder of the project, along with concession partner Delaware North.
The baseball club says this project is the largest single upgrade to Miller Park since the stadium opened in 2001. The second-biggest upgrade was the new scoreboard added in 2011, Schlesinger said.
“We are going to completely transform the food and beverage experience for 2017 throughout Miller Park, from new concession stands and bars to reimagined offerings that reflect the traditions of Wisconsin and elevate the program to an even higher level of quality,” Schlesinger said.
The stadium will add 11 new concession stands in what the Brewers are calling the First Base Ward and Third Base Ward on the main concourse of Miller Park. More than 40 portable concession stands and two full-service bars will be added.
The project has been in the planning stages since 2015, when the Brewers hired consultants Dave Howard and John Sergi, who have overseen the remodeling of concessions at a number of sports venues across the country, including recently at Citi Field and Madison Square Garden in New York City and Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
Joe Sorge, president of Hospitality Democracy, said the upgrade means there will be more access to local food options offered by the company, which served fans from only part of the stadium this past season
In surveys of fans in preparation for the project, "tacos were pretty high on the list," said Sorge.
His company is working to develop a new brand of tacos that will be launched first at Miller Park, with plans to gather feedback from fans and then eventually open a brick-and-mortar local restaurant with that brand, Sorge said.
The actual varieties of tacos planned to go on sale April 3 are still being developed, Sorge said. But his chefs on Wednesday offered a glimpse of what might be to come when they served up roasted mushroom and sweet corn tacos with avocado poblano sauce and cabbage slaw, as well as a chicken tinga taco with fresh pico de gallo and cabbage slaw.
Fans also expressed an interest in mac-and-cheese. "It's something that we have a lot of success at Smoke Shack," said Sorge. The Miller Park mac-and-cheese concessions won't carry a Smoke Shack brand, however.
"Cheese is a big part of Wisconsin obviously, and it'll be a big part of this experience as well," said Sorge.
The redesign will also feature a “local brews” bar on the right field side of the Loge level, with 30 taps serving craft beers from across Wisconsin. MillerCoors will be expanding its offerings as well, including its Leinenkugel’s beers.
Other partners in the project include Uihlein-Wilson Architects and Hunzinger Construction. Construction will start immediately, the Brewers said, so the project can be completed by April 3, when the Brewers host the Colorado Rockies on Opening Day.
Prices for the 2017 concession experience weren't announced, and aren't likely to be unveiled before January.
"Some things are going to stay stable, some things are going to be adjusted," Schelesinger said, adding the team is taking Milwaukeeans' penchant for getting a good buy into account.
"We're very sensitive to prices, and from our perspective increasing the volume of things sold helps keep things stable," said Schlesinger.
"I will commit that we're going to keep things affordable," said Schlesinger, saying the organization doesn't want to overprice its product.
"We spend a lot of time on pricing. We are very sensitive that small incremental increases do affect fans and do affect volume," he said. "We are competing with the tailgating experience; we have a very liberal carry-in policy, so we have a lot of reasons to make sure our pricing is affordable."
Schlesinger said fans should continue to look for new wrinkles in the food and beverage side of the stadium after next season, based on feedback from fans about what's offered in 2017.
"This is not a onetime project," he said. "We're going to find in 2017 that not everything we do is going to hit a home run."